July 31, 2013 - 4:02 PM
KELOWNA – You won't find an iPhone on his desk or catch him Googling his research, but that hasn't stopped Mike Roberts from giving Okanagan audiences a well crafted weather story.
Prepping tonight's broadcast, Roberts admits he's not entirely up to speed with today's web driven culture.
Glancing through scenic wildlife photos emailed from Global viewers, Roberts comes across an owl photograph. Instead of keying a search into Google to double check the species name he pulls out his Birds of B.C. handbook sitting at his desk which tells him the birds are juvenile saw-whet owls.
“Do you want the answer or the research project?” he says, forgoing the task of scanning through pages of web results.
“Rather than broadcast error you want to broadcast accuracy,” he says, a sound principle that can prove difficult in the business of predicting weather patterns.
“Weathermen never have to be right all of the time,” he says. If the news cast calls for a 60 per cent chance of showers, then, “if you're in the 40 per cent where there are no showers you're gonna think I'm wrong.”
“Somewhere I'm right... Somewhere.”
As he nears the end of his 40 year news career—Roberts announced his retirement on Global News last night—he has plenty of perspective on the new era of journalism. He remembers when his family first bought a television set in 1957 for their Vancouver Island home.
“We watched CBC Vancouver and Bob Fortune was the weatherman and would just draw a cross-section of North America,” he says.
“As a kid you watch this guy draw this... and the cumulus clouds and say, that's just fascinating.”
Combined with a passion for storytelling, comedy routines and stage performance in his high school years, news reporting was a natural transition. It started with a radio gig in 1969 at a Duncan station where he managed all the turntables and tape decks, and later an open line morning show until he took to the screen with Victoria's CheckTV in 1972.
"Pleasant" is how he describes work in the Okanagan. Hired by Global in 1973 Roberts started with a mix of weather reporting, feature stories, noon hour coverage and hosting the Gold Trails and Ghost Towns history series.
“It's been a warm relationship, it's like living in a village – people know you by your first name,” Roberts says. And also warm in terms of the weather forecast itself.
“I was golfing with a guy the other day and he said: you're a weather man in Kelowna – what do you do? And I said, well we kind of just record something at the first of June and just keep replaying it until the 15th of November,” he jokes.
After delivering his final broadcast Friday September 6 he says he won't be throwing in the towel but still keeping busy after years of work in the fast-paced news world.
“I think there's a lot of adrenaline in broadcasting because you go on air and even though you've been at it for a long time you still want to do it right,” he says.
He'll be staying in the Okanagan, spending time with his three sons and six grandchildren, continuing his work as the honorary chair of United Way and fundraising for the Good News Bears food bank project.
"I guess it's what I don't know about the modern news business that's one of the reasons I'm retiring," he says. "Things are moving to the web, to tweets, to blogs, facebook."
In time Roberts expects social media will evolve into something more coherent, but feels nostalgic for the by-gone days of a more sophisticated journalism.
"There once was a time when journalism was a craft which people honed and became better at... And now the journalism we're getting is not as crafted as it could be," he says, for example, when an inexperienced journalist writes a news report out of reaction and without contextual knowledge.
"But maybe that's just an old guy thinking: kids these days."
As for the long weekend forecast?
Roberts says we're in for lots of rain and possibly thunder and lightning.
“You just have to tell folks: listen, we need the rain... your grass will be automatically greener. And then you just go out in public wearing funny-nosed glasses and a hat.”
Roberts checks his facts the old-fashioned way
(JULIE WHITTET /InfoTel Multimedia)
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013